NDN Blog

The way we do media is ready for a big re-think

A great deal of thinking has been done in recent years about a building a 21st century progressive infrastructure.  New institutions like Center for American Progress, Media Matters, Democracy Journal, Copernicus, Platform Equity, the Blue Fund, Catalist and Air America has all benefited from political venture capitial meeting progressive entreprenuers eager to build a new and better capacities to bring our values and ideas to the American people. 

We've always believed that an area that needed an immediate and critical re-think is the way we market, brand and sell our movement, institutions, ideas/values, leaders and candidates.  It is not just about adopting and experimenting with all the new and game-changing tools becoming available today, it is about the content of the paid advertising itself.  As the Washington Post points out today in a very good front page article, paid advertising is where most of our money goes in the progressive movement, and along with the impression people get through the media of how we govern, is the primary way people understand who we are and what we are about.  And I for one am not convinced the way we communicate is as modern and or effective as it can be:

...."The Republican and Democratic parties dumped tens of millions of dollars this week on dozens of congressional races, locking up broadcast time yesterday for a blizzard of new advertising that will saturate the airwaves over the final weekend of the midterm campaign season.

Candidates rushed out more than 600 new television ads ahead of network deadlines for the weekend, with many Republicans trying to shift attention from Iraq and President Bush to local issues such as the environment, taxes and immigration. This final thrust will boost spending on political and issue advertising past $2 billion in this campaign, or $400 million more than in the 2004 presidential campaign, according to Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

"Politics is probably the only business in the world where they spend the most money when they have the least number of available customers to pitch to," Tracey said..."

I wrote earlier this week about how tv ads have changed this cycle, as our practioners are coming to terms with how broadcast tv norms have become exhausted and are experimenting with new ways to connect.  This is becoming all the more urgent, as the speed in which we are leaving the broadcast era is increasing.  Consider that over the next few years: half of all voters will come to own a DVR, making it likely they will skip a very high portion of tv ads; live, over-the-air broadcast TV will continue its dramatic decline, and reach perhaps only a third of all people watching TV on any given day; this year Google will sell as many search ads this year as ABC will TV ads; the kind of one to one marketing invisioned by Copernicus and Catalist will become commonplace; and a third of all voters will have broadband video on their phones, radically increasing the importance of viral video and other bottom-up, citizen-led viral networks. 

I will have more on all this over the next few days, and will talk about how the three major media campaigns our community has funded in recent years have been built with all these transformations in mind. 

Lots to think about.  But that's what we do here at NDN and NPI.  Your thoughts, as always, are welcome. 

Rothenberg Says Odds Are Dems Will Take Senate

The latest Rothenberg ratings are out. With normal warnings about chickens, hatching, counting, and so forth, its very good news. Here are some key quotes:

  • The Senate: "While Senate control is in doubt, with Democrats most likely to win from 5 to 7 seats, we do not think the two sides have an equal chance of winning a majority in the Senate. Instead, we believe that state and national dynamics favor Democrats netting six seats and winning control of the United States Senate."
  • The House: "Going into the final days before the 2006 midterm elections, we believe the most likely outcome in the House of Representatives is a Democratic gain of 34 to 40 seats, with slightly larger gains not impossible. This would put Democrats at between 237 and 243 seats, if not a handful more, giving them a majority in the next House that is slightly larger than the one the Republicans currently hold. If these numbers are generally correct, we would expect a period of GOP finger-pointing and self-flagellation after the elections, followed by a considerable number of Republican House retirements over the next two years."
  • Governors: "With Republican seats like Idaho, Alaska, and Nevada in play for state-specific reasons, and Minnesota vulnerable to a Democratic wave, the ceiling for possible Democratic gains is high. We have narrowed our earlier projection from Democratic gains of 6-10 to 7-9." 

The Political Backstory: More Trauma in Traditional Media, this time, Newspapers

I know we are putting out all political news all the time, but it bears pointing out another striking story this week on the trauma of traditional media, the bread and butter of politics of the past. I commented last week on the severe trauma in broadcast television companies, particularly NBC. But this week the news was just as severe, if not more so, for traditional newspapers.

The New York Times had a very good overarching story on how ALL major newspapers in the country (save three strange exceptions) significantly lost circulation in the last six months, in what is proving to be an inexorable slide. Even in the best papers:

The Los Angeles Times lost 8 percent of its daily circulation and 6 percent on Sunday. The Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times Company, lost 6.7 percent of its daily circulation and almost 10 percent on Sunday.”

As we have pointed out repeatedly at the New Politics Institute, you can track this decline right alongside the appearance of personal computers and the growth in the internet. In fact, the Times points out that the peak of daily newspaper circulation came in 1984, which happens to be the year the IBM PC made its appearance. Since then, newspaper have lost 20 million subscriptions, a full one-third of the peak. From the NYT:

“Circulation for about half the nation's dailies had dropped to 43.7 million, down 2.8 percent, for the six months ending in September, compared with the same period last year. Daily circulation for all of the nation's papers reached its peak in 1984, at 63.3 million.”

The good news is that those papers that are shifting their strategy around the internet are seeing substantial success, though not enough yet to make up for the broadsheet revenue losses. However, you can see the seeds of a rebirth:

“The newspaper association said that for the third quarter of this year, 57 million people visited a newspaper Web site, an increase of 24 percent over the period a year ago. And revenues from online advertisers are growing.”

Politics has been conducted for the 20th century on the backs of two major media: newspapers and broadcast television. The 21st century will be very different. We are seeing irrefutable signs of it all around us.

Peter Leyden

The Sound of a Campaign Crashing and Burning

I have to credit Dewine with keeping a straight face...

Meet Mr. Boehner

Republicans seem intent on running against Nancy Pelosi, even if most voters have never heard of her.  Maybe Democrats should be running against the man who is the likely next Republican leader in the House, Congressman John Boehner.  As best I can tell, Boehner has an egg timer in his head, and when it goes off he goes off, and says the most awful thing in he can think of on short notice.  Three of his most recent gems:

"I listen to my Democratic friends and I wonder if they’re more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people."

"Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld...The fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president."

"If [John Kerry's] not going to apologize, we're going to beat him to death until he does."  Watch that one on ThinkProgress.

Boehner must be seeing internal numbers that say the American electorate is really responding to this Republican Congress that is long on polarizing rhetoric and scandals and short on accomplishment.  Anybody else think Boehner is drinking way too much of the Bush/Cheney/Rove politics of division flavored kool-aid? 

Two Excellent "Where Are We At" Roundups.

A really excellent, heartening update on the polls from Ruy Teixeira over the equally excellent, data-rich Democratic strategist blog. Its very rich, but this is the gist of his points; 

When I last checked in about the state of the race--about ten days ago--things looked pretty good for the Democrats. Now they look even better..... Take the generic congressional contest, for example. In the nine polls finished since 10/20 that are listed on PollingReport.com, the Democrats' average lead is 14 points......National polls continue to confirm a very wide lead for Democrats among independent voters.... The Pew data show huge swings toward the Democrats among many important voter groups including seniors, middle income voters, non-college educated voters, whites, rural residents, married moms, white Catholics--the list goes on and on. In effect, these shifts have turned yesterday's swing voters into Democratic groups and many of yesterday's Republican groups into swing voters.... The political scientists' forecasting model prediction of 32 seats doesn't see so far-fetched in light of these data.....the GOP turnout machine is overrated and is simply not capable of turning defeat into victory in the manner alleged by GOP operatives.....

And - getting completely ahead of ourselves for a minute - the sage political analyst Larry Sabato raises the prospect of a shut out, in which Republicans win nothing at all. And as someone who works in Virginia, i'm taking as significant the fact that Sabato is tipping Jim Webb over George Allen too.

Virginia - Toss-up - Jim Webb (D) will unseat Sen. George Allen (R). Of course we're not counting him out altogether, but Allen's slow self-destruction has been nothing short of breathtaking, and we at the Crystal Ball are still somewhat shocked to find ourselves at the epicenter of the fight for the Senate....

The whole post is excellent, and worth reading. 

NDN Buzz

Simon is in the San Antonio Express-News today talking about the Republican's failure at making immigration a winning issue for them in next week's election. 

"From a policy standpoint, there was an organized effort to derail comprehensive immigration reform," says Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network, a Washington-based progressive political organization.....There was (also) an effort to make immigration reform a winning issue for Republicans, but it failed for three reasons," he adds. "But despite the fence, they didn't satisfy those clamoring for more action. Second, it isn't working politically in the states, and third, it really angered the Latino community, the fastest growing electorate in the country."


Only Obama trails Clinton on '08 list

According to a new CNN poll, Sen. Barack Obama trails only Sen. Hillary Clinton on the list of potential Democratic candidates in 2008. The not-so-surprising results show Sen. Obama, who received 17 percent from registered Democrats, trailing Sen. Clinton, who received 28 percent (down from 38 percent in September).

The poll showed former Vice President Al Gore, former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (in that order) following the pack of first-tier candidates. Rounding out the rest were Sen. Evan Bayh, Sen. Joseph Biden, Sen. Russ Feingold, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack who are all in the low single digits.

This shouldn't come as much of a shock. Given the intense media coverage around his book tour (the Time magazine cover story, his Oprah appearance, etc.), Sen. Obama has been everywhere. A role he seems to have adjusted to quite well, he continues to challenge statements most politicos previously considered fact. Only time will tell whether he will find as much success with the challenge these results present: Sen. Clinton.

(For an interesting read on how the GOP might enjoy an Obama run, check this article out.) 

The Missing Linc (or the strange death of Rockefeller Republicanism)

New TAP supremo Harold Meyerson had a piece in yesterday's Post i meant to put up, if only for this frankly jaw slackening quote from Susan Collins.

Most of the House seats that the Democrats are expected to take from Republicans are in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, heartland of the old Republican Party of Lincoln, McKinley and Eisenhower. Many of the Republicans holding these seats are a distinct minority in a party now dominated by Southerners who are more supportive of executive branch authoritarianism and yet also more government-phobic. And the Republican moderates, judging by their own comments, are boiling mad that the Democrats are going after them. "There is no one who has voted more often with the Democrats than Linc Chafee," Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine, told the New York Times of her Rhode Island colleague, who is trailing Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the polls. "Yet that didn't stop them from going after him with everything they had."

Right. Riiiiiiiight. Of course she is correct. Sensible democrats do prefer Chafee republicans to, say, Brownback republicans. That said, reflect on the cheek of it. After 8 years of being divided, wedged, spun, polarized, split up, pilloried and pounded by a Republican attack machine that asks and receives no quarter - hell, not even a nickle - Collins has the gall to criticize Democrats for going on the attack? Its enough to leave one stammering in amazement. Anyway - i've heard Simon over the last two days say that this is the "last election of the 20th century" and in this sense at least he is dead on. There is a different politics coming. You can see it, as this WSJ piece from yesterday notes, in the battle for the Mountain West:

Despite a Republican edge in registration, Democrats are discovering the Mountain West — and Colorado in particular — to be a new political frontier as the party benefits from a potent mix of changing demographics, anger over the war in Iraq, resentment toward conservative social initiatives and millions of dollars’ worth of advocacy advertising.

But in addition to these signs of the future we also have signs of the past. This election is about the cosolidation, the close of business, of an older sort of American politics - with the GOP being further wiped out in the north, Democrats winning in the rust-belt, conservatives holding firm in the south, and so forth. And if that means that the Democrats are taking out the last of the Rockerfeller Republicans, the Republican party only have themselves to blame.

Election Blogging in the UK

A few of you might have picked up from my unusually vowel-filled spelling and odd choice of vocabulary that not everyone here at NDN is 100% American born. Let it never be said this organization is not generous in support for immigrants of all sorts. Anyway, i've been writing about the election in a few places back home in the UK, and thought i might link to them. (Full disclosure: i write these in an individual capacity, and do not speak for NDN as a whole in any sense whatsoever.) Yesterday i had a piece on the Guardian site about the whole unfortunate Kerry brouhaha. The gist of my piece was in the headline - "Kerry's gaffe was cringe-making, but the response of the Republican attack dogs shows how bankrupt the Bush administration now is." Quote:

Iraq is going to hell in a hand basket. The median American family is more than $1,000 a year worse off than it was in 2000. American health care is broken. The country is falling in the world education rankings. Global warming is going to hobble the world economy, if not end life on earth. And the Republicans really think they can win an election by attacking John Kerry? One is reminded of the tawdry fictional dictators of Huxley or Orwell, always tilting at imaginary enemies to motivate the people and bolster their crumbling regimes. There could be no more telling epitaph for the failure of conservative governance.

I'm also blogging over at the Progress blog. Progress is, basically, the British equivalent of NDN. Its what we over the pond would call a "ginger group" for the Blarite wing of the Labour Party of which i consider myself a member. Anyway, here is the latest, on the under-reported news of the Senate actually being in play following positive polls from Virginia:

Anyway, if I read the polls correctly, it is now just possible that the Democrats could win all of their competitive Senate races bar Tennessee. Doing this would take back the Senate. Is it likely? No, I think probably not. We have the turnout issue. We have the GOP's kick-ass GOTV issue. We have the Republican financial advantage issue. And we have the possibility of some other big news event coming Kerry-style and ruining another few days of the news cycle. But we must remember that if these races go into election roughly even, theory and history expect late-breaking and independent voters to go 2:1 for change.

If anyone thinks there is something about these elections my fellow limeys need to know, drop me a line........

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